The Vegas Golden Knights will begin defense of their Western Conference title without valuable defenseman Nate Schmidt, who was suspended without pay by the NHL for 20 regular-season games for violating the terms of the NHL/NHL Players Assn. Performance Enhancing Substances Program.
In announcing Schmidt’s suspension in a release Sunday the NHL did not specify the substance for which Schmidt tested positive. The league also said Schmidt will be allowed to participate in team activities during training camp but can’t dress for or play in preseason games. In addition, citing the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union, the suspension was accompanied by mandatory referral to the NHL/NHLPA Program for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health for evaluation and possible treatment. The league’s statement said it would have no further comment on the matter.
Schmidt was a vital factor in Vegas’ run to the Stanley Cup final in the team’s first season. He had a team-leading average of 22 minutes and 13 seconds’ ice time during the regular season and 24:25 during the playoffs.
In a statement released through the NHLPA, Schmidt said the positive test was for “a microscopic amount of a tainted substance” that he didn’t deliberately ingest and from which he did not get any performance-enhancing benefits.
“I am extremely disappointed to learn that I have been suspended for a violation of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. The fact that I’m issuing this statement is surreal to me as I have only used supplements provided by my NHL team and I have always been extremely careful about what I put into my body,” he said. “Throughout my playing career I have been tested numerous times, including twice last season, and I have never before tested positive. It was utterly shocking to be informed that I tested positive for a microscopic amount of a tainted substance. Not only did I not intentionally take a banned substance, I could not have received any performance enhancement benefit from the trace amount that inadvertently got into my system at a level that was far too small to have any effect. This low amount was consistent with environmental contamination that I could not possibly have prevented.
“One of the experts in environmental contamination who testified on my behalf at the Appeal hearing described the amount of the substance found in my system--7 billionths of a milligram/mL--as the equivalent of a pinch of salt in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Another expert analyzed a sample of my hair and concluded there was no evidence of intentional use. The Vegas Golden Knights track players’ strength and performance metrics and my results have remained constant over the past year.
“While I support having a strong Performance Enhancing Substances Program in place for our sport, it is difficult to accept this suspension. I understand that I will miss these games, but I do not agree with the suspension and I will not accept being labelled a cheater. I have worked my whole life to become an NHL player, and I’m extremely proud to be a player in the NHL. I have never cut corners in order to achieve this goal. I am grateful for the support of the entire Golden Knights organization and I can’t put into words how disappointed I am that I will not be on the ice at the beginning of the season to help my teammates work towards another Stanley Cup run.”